CANTON (WJW) — Jalen DiCenzi had plenty to be happy about in the summer of 2017. He was home from college and he was a new father.
An athlete all his life, the 22-year-old had plans to work in sports management, and coach children when he graduated the next year.
“He was a sports fanatic,” his mom Jalene Roberts said. “Every time he’d come home for the summer, I’d say ‘are you going to get a real job?’ He’d say ‘Mom, I have a real job. I’m going to go to the camp, and I’m going to be with the kids,’ and that’s when it was like, ‘Are you going to play kick ball the rest of your life?’ ‘No mom, I’m going to play football. I’m going to play baseball. I’m going to play basketball.’ He was just the fun person.”
June 11, 2017, was a Sunday.
Just after 9:30 a.m., Jalen was shot twice as he drove home. He was rushed to Aultman hospital, but one bullet hit him in the head.
He would never recover.
And a few days after he was shot, his mom and his family made a tough decision.
“I knew about organ donation, and I knew people who needed organs. At the time, I had been working in a hospital and was privy to how that was, but I also had to consider my other children and I had to consider other family members and how I would explain it to them,” she said.
It’s hard to let go of hope, but organ donation gives new hope.
There are roughly 1,300 people in Northeast Ohio right now whose only chance of long-term survival is through an organ transplant.
and finding donors and families willing to give the gift of life, especially in communities of color, is sometimes hard.
“Organ, eye and tissue donation is not about what happens at the end of life but what happens at the beginning of life. “It’s a gift of life, and our partners do everything they can in the hospitals to save a life, but in those rare and traumatic events they want to make sure that the families know what’s necessary and what’s going on,” said Lifebanc Community Outreach Coordinator Edmund Wilson.
Jalene and her family made that tough decision.
Because she said Jalen, who was always so happy and so positive and so giving, would have wanted to help.
“His heart went to a 65-year-old female lady, and his liver went to a 56-year-old man, and his two kidneys went to a 31-year-old male, and a 16-year-old male, so yeah. So that’s four people who got a new lease on life. Yes,” Jalene said.
But that wasn’t the end of Jalen’s story.
For Jalene, helping four people through organ donation wasn’t enough to honor her son.
So, she and her family created Jalen’s Angels.
“This came to me in a dream I had about Jalen, and he’s was just saying ‘nobody will know me’, and I was saying ‘they’ll know you, don’t worry about it’, and I said, when I woke up I said ‘hmm I’m going to do this I’m going to this.’ That through different things with LifeBanc and the foundation and that people do know him, and there is forgiveness and there isn’t always anger after a situation like this,” Jalene said.
Jalen’s Angels give out gifts, hold parties and do random acts of kindness around the area and, of course, talk about organ donation and what the gift of life can bring.
Nothing will bring Jalen back. But he leaves behind a daughter that is now six and carries a locket with his picture inside.
To her and the family he also leaves a legacy of life and a legacy of giving.
“Everybody is someone else’s child or someone else’s mother or somebody’s father, so to lose someone close to you and to be able to help that not happened to somebody else it warms my heart,” Jalene said.
If you would like to find out more about organ donation, click here.